Events & exhibitions

Dario Robleto: Unknown and Solitary Seas

  • Monday, November 4, 2019 through
    Saturday, January 18, 2020
    5 PM–10 PM ET
  • Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery, Byerly Hall
    8 Garden Street
    Cambridge, MA 02138
Dario Splash

On November 4, 2019, there will be an exhibition opening conversation with the artist and a cardiologist, "The Once and Future Heart," at 5 p.m. in the Knafel Center.

Dario Robleto’s exhibition for the Radcliffe Institute examines the 19th-century origins of the pulse wave as a graphic expression of internal life. Robleto explores the profundity and confusion of this early moment, when ineffable emotional and sensory experiences first became visible as data. These waveforms eventually led to the voracious clinical data harvesting of today, but the earliest experiments were delicate and hesitant: pulse waves were traced into sooted paper with a stylus made of a single human hair, and scientists were not sure how (or whether) to interpret them. Robleto’s multimedia installation, based on extensive archival research, reawakens the intimacy, beauty, and emotional complexity of these first waveforms drawn from and by the heart. Casting them in steel and brass, printing and retrieving them from new layers of soot, and converting them into video and engineered sound, Robleto encourages us to attend to them with resonant forms of empathy, to reflect upon the lives of the 19th-century subjects who bequeathed them to us—and ultimately to imagine more heartfelt ways of inheriting and interpreting historical data.

Throughout his 20-year career as an artist, Robleto has sought to cultivate rigorous, mutually transformative interactions among the arts, humanities, and sciences. Tapping into multiple creative traditions ranging from astrophysics and paleontology to poetry and DJ culture, his work has focused with particular intensity on theories and practices of recording and on the material and emotional structures of intergenerational relay and memory. His work has been exhibited widely and is held in prominent collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Menil Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has been a research fellow or artist in residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the SETI Institute, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and a wide variety of other cultural and academic institutions. Robleto is currently serving as the first artist-at-large at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Block Museum of Art. He lives and works in Houston, Texas.

Exhibition organized by Jennifer L. Roberts, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute and Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University


Fellows, students, faculty, and staff members respond to exhibitions at Radcliffe through associated performances, lectures, and discussions. 

The Once and Future Heart
Monday, November 4, 5 PM
Knafel Center, 10 Garden Street
Visit the event page for more information and to register.

Cardiophonie: Musical Performance for Solo Tuba
Wednesday, November 6, 3:30 PM
Byerly Library, Byerly Hall, 8 Garden Street

The centerpiece of the program is an improvisation inspired by the composer Heinz Holliger’s classic 1971 work Cardiophonie for solo tuba and electronics, in which the instrumentalist Max Murray will perform alongside the amplified sonority of his own heartbeat. This will be followed by a musical response to the exhibition's conceptual engagement with waveforms.

Dario Robleto: Witnessing Sound
Friday, November 8, 11 AM
Art Study Center, Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street

In this seminar, presented in conjunction with the exhibition Winslow Homer: Eyewitness, Robleto will explore the theme of “witnessing” as it relates to auditory and material forms of war testimony. He will present his research on a rare and little-known audio recording made during a battle in Lille, France, in 1918, toward the end of World War I. It is the first live audio recording ever made on a battlefield. 

In conversation with Jennifer L. Roberts, the Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard, and Ethan Lasser, the John Moors Cabot Chair of the Department of Art of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Robleto will discuss the cultural, material, and emotional dimensions of auditory witnessing and explain the role this recording plays in his current and future work. 

After exploring works in the Art Study Center, participants will visit the Winslow Homer exhibition galleries for an optional discussion of sound in Homer’s work.

Turbulent Tremors: Sounding the Heart and Emotions in 19th-Century Song
Thursday, November 14, 5 PM
Byerly Library, Byerly Hall, 8 Garden Street

Harvard College Opera performs a recital of romantic songs from the 19th century about the heart, emotions, and the sea.

Beating the Limits: New Heart, New Start
Wednesday, November 20, Noon
Sheer Room, Fay House, 10 Garden Street

From the earliest heartbeat to the end of your days, the heart carries life and love. What happens when the heart breaks, no longer able to support life? Heart transplantation is the miracle of sharing life. Join Elizabeth Blume, a pediatric heart surgeon, to learn about the technology and science of pediatric heart transplantation and the physician’s perspective of the joys, ethics, and heartbreak of donating life.

RECORDAR | to pass through the heart
Wednesday, December 4, Noon
Sheer Room, Fay House, 10 Garden Street

This performance by VISION LAB will take as its starting point not "the human heart," but rather your own human heart, creatively repurposing Harvard's archive of earliest waveform recordings of blood flowing from the heart (1874–1896) with contemporary interventions and interactive media. We invite you to participate in dream hacking, movement arts, the Night Journey of mystical Islam, the question of whether the heart can lie to itself, poetry, percussion compositions, interactive sensors and visualizations of cardio data, critiques of Eurocentric understanding of “the pulse,” and intimate conversations about all of this and more.

WHAT IS VISION LAB? VISION LAB is an experimental arts and research collective attuned to the future of spirituality in the human and more-than-human world. We are based at Harvard Divinity School and create performances, artistic works in a variety of media, conferences, and collaborations combining radically imaginative cross-disciplinary conversations and experiential practices spanning the areas of social and environmental justice, technology, and literary and artistic practice.

Making Pig-to-Human Transplantation a Clinical Reality with CRISPR Genome Editing
Friday, December 13, 4 PM
Knafel Center, 10 Garden Street 
Visit the event page for more information.

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